A history of the moravian church



Download 1.27 Mb.
Page10/36
Date03.05.2017
Size1.27 Mb.
1   ...   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   ...   36
He had one great purpose to attain. As the Brethren had rendered such signal service to the moral welfare of the land, it seemed to him absurd and unfair that they should still be under the ban of the law and still be denounced in Catholic pulpits as children of the devil. He resolved to remedy the evil. The Emperor, Rudolph II., paved the way. He was just the man that Budowa required. He was weak in body and in mind. He had ruined his health, said popular scandal, by indulging in dissolute pleasures. His face was shrivelled, his hair bleached, his back bent, his step tottering. He was too much interested in astrology, gems, pictures, horses, antique relics and similar curiosities to take much interest in government; he suffered from religious mania, and was constantly afraid of being murdered; and his daily hope and prayer was that he might be spared all needless trouble in this vexatious world and have absolutely nothing to do. And now he committed an act of astounding folly. He first revived the Edict of St. James, ordered the nobles throughout the land to turn out all Protestant pastors {1602-3.}, and sent a body of armed men to close the Brethren’s Houses at Jungbunzlau; and then, having disgusted two-thirds of his loyal subjects, he summoned a Diet, and asked for money for a crusade against the Turks. But this was more than Wenzel could endure. He attended the Diet, and made a brilliant speech. He had nothing, he said, to say against the Emperor. He would not blame him for reviving the musty Edict. For that he blamed some secret disturbers of the peace. If the Emperor needed money and men, the loyal knights and nobles of Bohemia would support him. But that support would be given on certain conditions. If the Emperor wished his subjects to be loyal, he must first obey the law of the land himself. “We stand,” he said, “one and all by the Confession of 1575, and we do not know a single person who is prepared to submit to the Consistory at Prague.” He finished, wept, prepared a petition, and sent it in to the poor invisible Rudolph. And Rudolph replied as Emperors sometimes do. He replied by closing the Diet.
Again, however, six years later, Budowa returned to the attack {1609.}. He was acting, not merely on behalf of the Brethren, but on behalf of all Protestants in the country. And this fact is the key to the situation. As we follow the dramatic story to its sad and tragic close, we must remember that from this time onward the Brethren, for all intents and purposes, had almost abandoned their position as a separate Church, and had cast in their lot, for good or evil, with the other Protestants in Bohemia. They were striving now for the recognition, not of their own Confession of Faith, but of the general Bohemian Protestant Confession presented to the Emperor, Maximilian II. And thus Budowa became a national hero. He called a meeting of Lutherans and Brethren in the historic “Green Saloon,” prepared a resolution demanding that the Protestant Confession be inscribed in the Statute Book, and, followed by a crowd of nobles and knights, was admitted to the sacred presence of the Emperor.
Again the Diet was summoned. The hall was crammed, and knights and nobles jostled each other in the corridors and in the square outside {Jan. 28th, 1609.}. For some weeks the Emperor, secluded in his cabinet, held to his point like a hero. The debate was conducted in somewhat marvellous fashion. There, in the Green Saloon, sat the Protestants, preparing proposals and petitions. There, in the Archbishop’s palace, sat the Catholics, rather few in number, and wondering what to do. And there, in his chamber, sat the grizzly, rickety, imperial Lion, consulting with his councillors, Martinic and Slawata, and dictating his replies. And then, when the king had his answer ready, the Diet met in the Council Chamber to hear it read aloud. His first reply was now as sharp as ever. He declared that the faith of the Church of Rome was the only lawful faith in Bohemia. “And as for these Brethren,” he said, “whose teaching has been so often forbidden by royal decrees and decisions of the Diet, I order them, like my predecessors, to fall in with the Utraquists or Catholics, and declare that their meetings shall not be permitted on any pretence whatever.”
In vain the Protestants, by way of reply, drew up a monster petition, and set forth their grievances in detail. They suffered, they said, not from actual persecution, but from nasty insults and petty annoyances. They were still described in Catholic pulpits as heretics and children of the devil. They were still forbidden to honour the memory of Hus. They were still forbidden to print books without the consent of the Archbishop. But the King snapped them short. He told the estates to end their babble, and again closed the Diet {March 31st.}.
The blood of Budowa was up. The debate, thought he, was fast becoming a farce. The King was fooling his subjects. The King must be taught a lesson. As the Diet broke up, he stood at the door, and shouted out in ringing tones: “Let all who love the King and the land, let all who care for unity and love, let all who remember the zeal of our fathers, meet here at six to-morrow morn.”
He spent the night with some trusty allies, prepared another declaration, met his friends in the morning, and informed the King, in language clear, that the Protestants had now determined to win their rights by force. And Budowa was soon true to his word. He sent envoys asking for help to the King’s brother Matthias, to the Elector of Saxony, to the Duke of Brunswick, and to other Protestant leaders. He called a meeting of nobles and knights in the courtyard of the castle, and there, with heads bared and right hands upraised, they swore to be true to each other and to win their liberty at any price, even at the price of blood. He arranged for an independent meeting in the town hall of the New Town. The King forbade the meeting. What better place, replied Budowa, would His Majesty like to suggest? As he led his men across the long Prague bridge, he was followed by thousands of supporters. He arrived in due time at the square in front of the hall. The Royal Captain appeared and ordered him off. The crowd jeered and whistled the Captain away.
And yet Budowa was no vulgar rebel. He insisted that every session in the hall should be begun and ended with prayer. He informed the King, again and again, that all he wished was liberty of worship for Protestants. He did his best to put an end to the street rows, the drunken brawls, that now disgraced the city.
For the third time the King summoned the Diet {May 25th.}. The last round in the terrible combat now began. He ordered the estates to appear in civilian’s dress. They arrived armed to the teeth. He ordered them to open the proceedings by attending Mass in the Cathedral. The Catholics alone obeyed; the Protestants held a service of their own; and yet, despite these danger signals, the King was as stubborn as ever, and again he sent a message to say that he held to his first decision. The Diet was thunderstruck, furious, desperate.
“We have had enough of useless talk,” said Count Matthias Thurn; “it is time to take to arms.” The long fight was drawing to a finish. As the King refused to listen to reason, the members of the Diet, one and all, Protestants and Catholics alike, prepared an ultimatum demanding that all evangelical nobles, knights, citizens and peasants should have full and perfect liberty to worship God in their own way, and to build schools and churches on all Royal estates; and, in order that the King might realise the facts of the case, Budowa formed a Board of thirty directors, of whom fourteen were Brethren, raised an army in Prague, and sent the nobles flying through the land to levy money and troops. The country, in fact, was now in open revolt. And thus, at length compelled by brute force, the poor old King gave way, and made his name famous in history by signing the Letter of Majesty and granting full religious liberty to all adherents of the Bohemian National Protestant Confession. All adherents of the Confession could worship as they pleased, and all classes, except the peasantry, could build schools and churches on Royal estates {July 9th.}. “No decree of any kind,” ran one sweeping clause, “shall be issued either by us or by our heirs and succeeding kings against the above established religious peace.”
The delight in Prague was boundless. The Letter of Majesty was carried through the streets in grand triumphal procession. The walls were adorned with flaming posters. The bells of the churches were rung. The people met in the Church of the Holy Cross, and there sang jubilant psalms of thanksgiving and praise. The King’s couriers posted through the land to tell the gladsome news; the letter was hailed as the heavenly herald of peace and goodwill to men; and Budowa was adored as a national hero, and the redresser of his people’s wrongs.
But the work of the Diet was not yet complete. As the Brethren, led by the brave Budowa, had borne the brunt of the battle, we naturally expect to find that now the victory was won, they would have the lion’s share of the spoils. But they really occupied a rather modest position. The next duty of the Diet was to make quite sure that the Letter of Majesty would not be broken. For this purpose they elected a Board of Twenty-four Defenders, and of these Defenders only eight were Brethren. Again, the Brethren had now to submit to the rule of a New National Protestant Consistory. Of that Consistory the Administrator was a Utraquist Priest; the next in rank was a Brethren’s Bishop; the total number of members was twelve; and of these twelve only three were Brethren. If the Brethren, therefore, were fairly represented, they must have constituted at this time about one-quarter or one-third of the Protestants in Bohemia.50 They were now a part, in the eyes of the law, of the National Protestant Church. They were known as Utraquist Christians. They accepted the National Confession as their own standard of faith, and though they could still ordain their own priests, their candidates for the priesthood had first to be examined by the national Administrator.
And, further, the Brethren had now weakened their union with the Moravian and Polish branches. No longer did the three parts of the Church stand upon the same footing. In Poland the Brethren were still the leading body; in Moravia they were still independent; in Bohemia alone they bowed to the rule of others. And yet, in some important respects, they were still as independent as ever. They could still hold their own Synods and practise their own ceremonies; they still retained their own Confession of faith; they could still conduct their own schools and teach their Catechism; and they could still, above all, enforce as of old their system of moral discipline. And this they guarded as the apple of their eye.
As soon as the above arrangements were complete they addressed themselves to the important task of defining their own position. And for this purpose they met at a General Synod at Zerawic, and prepared a comprehensive descriptive work, entitled “Ratio Disciplinæ”--i.e., Account of Discipline.51 It was a thorough, exhaustive, orderly code of rules and regulations. It was meant as a guide and a manifesto. It proved to be an epitaph. In the second place, the Brethren now issued (1615) a new edition of their Catechism, with the questions and answers in four parallel columns--Greek, Bohemian, German and Latin;52 and thus, once more, they shewed their desire to play their part in national education.
Thus, at last, had the Brethren gained their freedom. They had crossed the Red Sea, had traversed the wilderness, had smitten the Midianites hip and thigh, and could now settle down in the land of freedom flowing with milk and honey.

CHAPTER XIV.


THE DOWNFALL, 1616-1621.
THE dream of bliss became a nightmare. As the tide of Protestantism ebbed and flowed in various parts of the Holy Roman Empire, so the fortunes of the Brethren ebbed and flowed in the old home of their fathers. We have seen how the Brethren rose to prosperity and power. We have now to see what brought about their ruin. It was nothing in the moral character of the Brethren themselves. It was purely and simply their geographical position. If Bohemia had only been an island, as Shakespeare seems to have thought it was, it is more than likely that the Church of the Brethren would have flourished there down to the present day. But Bohemia lay in the very heart of European politics; the King was always a member of the House of Austria; the House of Austria was the champion of the Catholic faith, and the Brethren now were crushed to powder in the midst of that mighty European conflict known as the Thirty Years’ War. We note briefly the main stages of the process.
The first cause was the rising power of the Jesuits. For the last fifty years these zealous men had been quietly extending their influence in the country. They had built a magnificent college in Prague. They had established a number of schools for the common people. They had obtained positions as tutors in noble families. They went about from village to village, preaching, sometimes in the village churches and sometimes in the open air; and one of their number, Wenzel Sturm, had written an exhaustive treatise denouncing the doctrines of the Brethren. But now these Jesuits used more violent measures. They attacked the Brethren in hot, abusive language. They declared that the wives of Protestant ministers were whores. They denounced their children as bastards. They declared that it was better to have the devil in the house than a Protestant woman. And the more they preached, and the more they wrote, the keener the party feeling in Bohemia grew.
The next cause was the Letter of Majesty itself. As soon as that Letter was closely examined, a flaw was found in the crystal. We come to what has been called the “Church Building Difficulty.” It was clearly provided in one clause of the Letter of Majesty that the Protestants should have perfect liberty to build churches on all Royal estates. But now arose the difficult question, what were Royal estates? What about Roman Catholic Church estates? What about estates held by Catholic officials as tenants of the King? Were these Royal estates or were they not? There were two opinions on the subject. According to the Protestants they were; according to the Jesuits they were not; and now the Jesuits used this argument to influence the action of Matthias, the next King of Bohemia. The dispute soon came to blows. At Klostergrab the land belonged to the Catholic Archbishop of Prague; at Brunau it belonged to the Abbot of Brunau; and yet, on each of these estates, the Protestants had churches. They believed, of course, that they were in the right. They regarded those estates as Royal estates. They had no desire to break the law of the land. But now the Catholics began to force the pace. At Brunau the Abbot interfered and turned the Protestants out of the church. At Klostergrab the church was pulled down, and the wood of which it was built was used as firewood; and in each case the new King, Matthias, took the Catholic side. The truth is, Matthias openly broke the Letter. He broke it on unquestioned Royal estates. He expelled Protestant ministers from their pulpits, and put Catholics in their place. His officers burst into Protestant churches and interrupted the services; and, in open defiance of the law of the land, the priests drove Protestants with dogs and scourges to the Mass, and thrust the wafer down their mouths. What right, said the Protestants, had the Catholics to do these things? The Jesuits had an amazing answer ready. For two reasons, they held, the Letter of Majesty was invalid. It was invalid because it had been obtained by force, and invalid because it had not been sanctioned by the Pope. What peace could there be with these conflicting views? It is clear that a storm was brewing.
The third cause was the famous dispute about the Kingship. As Matthias was growing old and feeble, it was time to choose his successor; and Matthias, therefore, summoned a Diet, and informed the Estates, to their great surprise, that all they had to do now was to accept as King his adopted son, Ferdinand Archduke of Styria. At first the Diet was thunderstruck. They had met to choose their own King. They intended to choose a Protestant, and now they were commanded to choose this Ferdinand, the most zealous Catholic in Europe. And yet, for some mysterious reason, the Diet actually yielded. They surrendered their elective rights; they accepted Ferdinand as King, and thus, at the most critical and dangerous point in the whole history of the country, they allowed a Catholic devotee to become the ruler of a Protestant people. For that fatal mistake they had soon to pay in full. Some say they were frightened by threats; some say that the Diet was summoned in a hurry, and that only a few attended. The truth is, they were completely outwitted. At this point the Protestant nobles of Bohemia showed that fatal lack of prompt and united action which was soon to fill the whole land with all the horrors of war. In vain Budowa raised a vehement protest. He found but few to support him. If the Protestants desired peace and good order in Bohemia, they ought to have insisted upon their rights and elected a Protestant King; and now, in Ferdinand, they had accepted a man who was pledged to fight for the Church of Rome with every breath of his body. He was a man of fervent piety. He was a pupil of the Jesuits. He regarded himself as the divinely appointed champion of the Catholic faith. He had already stamped out the Protestants in Styria. He had a strong will and a clear conception of what he regarded as his duty. He would rather, he declared, beg his bread from door to door, with his family clinging affectionately around him, than allow a single Protestant in his dominions. “I would rather,” he said, “rule over a wilderness than over heretics.” But what about his oath to observe the Letter of Majesty? Should he take the oath or not? If he took it he would be untrue to his conscience; if he refused he could never be crowned King of Bohemia. He consulted his friends the Jesuits. They soon eased his conscience. It was wicked, they said, of Rudolph II. to sign such a monstrous document; but it was not wicked for the new King to take the oath to keep it. And, therefore, Ferdinand took the oath, and was crowned King of Bohemia. “We shall now see,” said a lady at the ceremony, “whether the Protestants are to rule the Catholics or the Catholics the Protestants.”
She was right. Forthwith the Protestants realised their blunder, and made desperate efforts to recover the ground they had lost. Now was the time for the Twenty-four Defenders to arise and do their duty; now was the time, now or never, to make the Letter no longer a grinning mockery. They began by acting strictly according to law. They had been empowered to summon representatives of the Protestant Estates. They summoned their assembly, prepared a petition, and sent it off to Matthias. He replied that their assembly was illegal. He refused to remedy their grievances. The Defenders were goaded to fury. At their head was a violent man, Henry Thurn. He resolved on open rebellion. He would have the new King Ferdinand dethroned and have his two councillors, Martinic and Slawata, put to death. It was the 23rd of May, 1618. At an early hour on that fatal day, the Protestant Convention met in the Hradschin, and then, a little later, the fiery Thurn sallied out with a body of armed supporters, arrived at the Royal Castle, and forced his way into the Regent’s Chamber, where the King’s Councillors were assembled. There, in a corner, by the stove sat Martinic and Slawata. There, in that Regent’s Chamber, began the cause of all the woe that followed. There was struck the first blow of the Thirty Years’ War. As Thurn and his henchmen stood in the presence of the two men, who, in their opinion, had done the most to poison the mind of Matthias, they felt that the decisive moment had come. The interview was stormy. Voices rang in wild confusion. The Protestant spokesman was Paul von Rican. He accused Martinic and Slawata of two great crimes. They had openly broken the Letter of Majesty, and had dictated King Matthias’s last reply. He appealed to his supporters crowded into the corridor outside.
“Aye, aye,” shouted the crowd.
“Into the Black Tower with them,” said some.
“Nay, nay,” said Rupow, a member of the Brethren’s Church, “out of the window with them, in the good old Bohemian fashion.”
At this signal, agreed upon before, Martinic was dragged to the window. He begged for a father confessor.
“Commend thy soul to God,” said someone. “Are we to allow any Jesuit scoundrels here?”
“Jesus! Mary!” he screamed.
He was flung headlong from the window. He clutched at the window-sill. A blow came down on his hands. He had to leave go, and down he fell, seventy feet, into the moat below.
“Let us see,” said someone, “whether his Mary will help him.”
He fell on a heap of soft rubbish. He scrambled away with only a wound in the head.
“By God,” said one of the speakers, “his Mary has helped him.”
At this point the conspirators appear to have lost their heads. As Martinic had not been killed by his fall, it was absurd to treat Slawata in the same way; and yet they now flung him out of the window, and his secretary Fabricius after him. Not one of the three was killed, not one was even maimed for life, and through the country the rumour spread that all three had been delivered by the Virgin Mary.
From that moment war was inevitable. As the details of the struggle do not concern us, it will be enough to state here that the Defenders now, in slipshod fashion, began to take a variety of measures to maintain the Protestant cause. They formed a national Board of Thirty Directors. They assessed new taxes to maintain the war, but never took the trouble to collect them. They relied more on outside help than on their own united action. They deposed Ferdinand II.; they elected Frederick, Elector Palatine, and son-in-law of James I. of England, as King of Bohemia; and they ordered the Jesuits out of the kingdom. There was a strange scene in Prague when these Jesuits departed. They formed in procession in the streets, and, clad in black, marched off with bowed heads and loud wailings; and when their houses were examined they were found full of gunpowder and arms. For the moment the Protestants of Prague were wild with joy. In the great Cathedral they pulled off the ornaments and destroyed costly pictures. What part did the Brethren play in these abominations? We do not know. At this tragic point in their fateful story our evidence is so lamentably scanty that it is absolutely impossible to say what part they played in the revolution. But one thing at least we know without a doubt. We know that the Catholics were now united and the Protestants quarrelling with each other; we know that Ferdinand was prompt and vigorous, and the new King Frederick stupid and slack; and we know, finally, that the Catholic army, commanded by the famous general Tilly, was far superior to the Protestant army under Christian of Anhalt. At last the Catholic army appeared before the walls of Prague. The battle of the White Hill was fought (November 8th, 1620). The new King, in the city, was entertaining some ambassadors to dinner. The Protestant army was routed, the new King fled from the country, and once again Bohemia lay crushed under the heel of the conqueror.
At this time the heel of the conqueror consisted in a certain Prince Lichtenstein. He was made regent of Prague, and was entrusted with the duty of restoring the country to order. He set about his work in a cool and methodical manner. He cleared the rabble out of the streets. He recalled the Jesuits. He ordered the Brethren out of the kingdom. He put a Roman Catholic Priest into every church in Prague; and then he made the strange announcement that all the rebels, as they were called, would be freely pardoned, and invited the leading Protestant nobles to appear before him at Prague. They walked into the trap like flies into a cobweb. If the nobles had only cared to do so, they might all have escaped after the battle of the White Hill; for Tilly, the victorious general, had purposely given them time to do so. But for some reason they nearly all preferred to stay. And now Lichtenstein had them in his grasp. He had forty-seven leaders arrested in one night. He imprisoned them in the castle tower, had them tried and condemned, obtained the approval of Ferdinand, and then, while some were pardoned, informed the remaining twenty-seven that they had two days in which to prepare for death. They were to die on June 21st. Among those leaders about a dozen were Brethren. We have arrived at the last act of the tragedy. We have seen the grim drama develop, and when the curtain falls the stage will be covered with corpses and blood.

CHAPTER XV.



Download 1.27 Mb.

Share with your friends:
1   ...   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   ...   36




The database is protected by copyright ©sckool.org 2020
send message

    Main page